Archive for September, 2009

Unilateralism: Not just for Republican presidents

The news that the Obama administration today will inform Poland and the Czech Republic that it’s backing out of a deal to build a missile-defense shield based in their countries isn’t all that surprising. But it does matter.

There is a sense in the West that post-Soviet Russia can be cajoled into being a constructive partner if we just respect its sensibilities. That sense dissipates the closer you get to the Russian border — i.e., among those countries that lived under Moscow’s thumb for the better part of the 20th century. They don’t trust the Russia of Vladimir Putin, because the Russia of Vladimir Putin continues to treat its old dominion as its current dominion. Putin’s Russia cuts off natural-gas supplies to Europe in the dead of winter on an almost annual basis. Putin’s Russia launches cyber attacks against other countries, including the U.S. Putin’s Russia interferes in the elections of its neighbors — or just goes ahead and invades them, as in the case of Georgia last …

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Gwinnett school system tries to cow charters

The bully is trying to keep control over the schoolyard.

That’s the bottom line of the lawsuit that the Gwinnett County school district filed last week. Gwinnett claims the state’s Charter Schools Commission acted illegally both in granting a charter to Ivy Preparatory Academy and in funding the all-girls school.

We’ll get to those matters in a moment, but first some background is in order.

School choice has been a long time in coming to Georgia, despite the state’s lengthy history of poor education. Charter schools, which are publicly funded but don’t have to follow all the rules that traditional schools do, are one tool for putting pressure on underperforming or just unimaginative public systems. Offering a free alternative allows students, particularly low-income kids who can’t afford a private education, to move to schools that better suit them.

But despite being popular with students and parents, charter schools have taken root slowly.

In 2000, then-Gov. Roy …

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The ACORN affair — UPDATED late Wed. afternoon

I’ve been meaning for a while to link to stories about ACORN — the group of community organizers whose employees in multiple cities have been caught on video advising two “guerrilla documentarians” on setting up a child-prostitution ring with young immigrants, among other despicable things. So here are a few worth reading:

First, BigGovernment.com has been breaking the bulk of the news on this story…start there if you’re behind on the story and trying to catch up.

This editorial from National Review Online pretty well sums up the stakes involved.

The indefatigable John Fund reminds everyone of what ACORN’s been up to besides helping would-be pimps and prostitutes.

Feel free to post other links in the comments…and please remember not to simply cut and paste large tracts of text.

Update: ACORN finds the revelations bad enough to have stopped accepting new clients. Now if we can just find out what has been going on with existing clients…any chance the internal review will tell …

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Atlanta’s mayoral candidates, in their own words

The folks at Campaign for Atlanta have done a great public service in conducting two sets of public interviews of each of the four leading candidates in this fall’s Atlanta mayoral election. The videos are now available on CFA’s Web site.

I attended the August forums on the city’s finances, and I can attest that 70 minutes on one topic from each of the four candidates is a lot to take in. But you’ll also have a hard time finding more in-depth information from these candidates on topics of great importance (the July forums focused on public safety). If you want to know where these candidates stand, this is a great starting point.

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How ‘death panels’ work in other countries

There’s been plenty of speculative commentary about Democrats’ health-care proposals and the “death panels” that Sarah Palin has warned of. But Britain’s National Health Service, that supposed exemplar of government-run health care, is implementing a system that is more disturbing than even what Palin imagined.

Rupert Darwall, writing in The Wall Street Journal, describes the plan which is known as the Liverpool Care Pathway — a suitably Orwellian name given that it’s actually a pathway to non-care. Under the Liverpool program, British doctors stop giving fluids and food to certain patients considered to be near death. Instead, the patients are put on a steady drip of drugs to render them unconscious until they die. This is known as “terminal sedation.”

Now get this: In 2007-08, before the Liverpool program’s national roll-out, terminal sedation already accounted for 16.5 percent of deaths in Britain. That’s one in six. In the U.S., that would have made it the third-leading …

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You and I are guaranteeing GM’s products

Over the weekend I caught a commercial in which new GM Chairman Ed Whitacre — the one who, upon taking his new jobs, famously said he doesn’t “know anything about cars” — touted a 60-day guarantee on the company’s vehicles. If you buy a GM product and find it unsatisfactory within 60 days (or 4,000 miles, whichever comes first), you can return it and get your money back.

So much for a car losing a great deal of its value when you drive it off the lot. This is one heck of a test drive.

This would seem to be a risky move for a company that was doing so poorly that it needed a $50 billion bailout from the federal government earlier this year. But what exactly is GM risking here? Not its money, but ours: Taxpayers, via the U.S. Treasury, own 61 percent of the company…so we are the ones guaranteeing GM’s products.

In case you’ve forgotten, we were the ones guaranteeing Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s products, too. And we know how that turned …

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Obama’s health-care ‘trust’ fund

Watching President Obama’s health-care speech Wednesday, I wanted to hear what he had taken away from the public back-and-forth of last month. While the only opposition he acknowledged explicitly was that of people using “scare tactics” to “score short-term political points,” his message was clearly crafted to reassure a nervous nation.

And his message of reassurance boiled down to: Trust me.

“I have no interest,” Obama said, “in putting insurance companies out of business.”

“No one would be forced to choose” the public option.

“I will make sure that no…bureaucrat gets between you and the care that you need.”

As you might have guessed, I’m skeptical that these claims will prove true. I still think the public option is a bad, unnecessary policy.

But let’s spend a few moments thinking about trust. Let’s pretend that all Americans did consider Obama a Super President who could fulfill all of these promises. That is, let’s pretend that we could …

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When no political label is safe

Fascinating poll numbers from Rasmussen Reports: Every political label, including “moderate,” has lost popularity since November. “Liberal” comes in last, with only a 15 percent positive/41 percent negative rating, worse than the 19/36 rating it had in November at the peak of Obamamania. Another way of describing it would be that “liberal” has a net rating of minus-26 percent now, versus minus-17 in November.

Here are the net ratings for other labels included in the survey, with November results in parentheses:

Conservative: plus-3 percent (down from plus-15 percent)

Progressive: plus-5 percent (down from plus-24 percent)

Moderate: plus-23 percent (down from plus-32 percent)

The one label that’s holding steady? “Like Ronald Reagan,” which is at plus-16 today…more or less the same as its plus-17 percent back in November. Now, if there were only a politician out there who deserved that description…

(Hat tip: Moe Lane at

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On deficits and health care

Here, courtesy of Calafia Beach Pundit, are two important graphs to keep in mind during the health-care debate, with all the attendant talk about federal budget deficits.

As the graphs illustrate so well, the current decline in revenues and rise in expenditures — leading to such a yawning budget deficit — are far more dramatic than at any other point in time shown. And as CBP notes, things are going to continue to worsen:

Revenues look like they might bottoming later this year, with the 3-mo. annual spending rate falling at an 11% rate today versus a 28% rate just a few months ago. But spending is growing at almost a 20% annual clip over the past 3 and 6 months, and we have yet to see the bulk of the $787 billion [stimulus] spending package get spent.

If revenues are still falling at a rate of 11 percent, and expenditures rising at a 20 percent clip, that budget gap is only going to get wider.

And ObamaCare, with a price tag of $900 billion at a bare minimum, and quite …

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Some 9/11 links

There is of course lots of commentary available today on 9/11 and all that came about as a result. Here are a few of the most noteworthy pieces I’ve found this morning…I’ll add any more that I come across:

Victor Davis Hanson analyzes our national schizophrenia.

Fouad Ajami on the false dichotomy of the “good” (Afghanistan) and “bad” (Iraq) wars that followed 9/11.

RedState re-posts Dan McLaughlin’s account of his experience of 9/11, written two days afterward…the first half is what I found most worthwhile.

The New York Times describes the “fortress city that didn’t come to be” with a series of short interviews with New Yorkers. Amazingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, the only quote that comes close to a big-picture explanation of why the city has been able to go back to normal is a strange comment about…capitalism?

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